Bladder campion (silene vulgaris) is a perennial white wildflower with waxy, bluish-green leaves. It blooms from May to September and grows to between one and three feet. Part of the Pink family, it is a native species to Europe but widespread across North America. A familiar sight across the UK, but most concentrated in England, bladder campion is one of seven Silene species native to this country, and grows in several habitats including, meadows, grasslands, fields, roadside verges and hedgerows. It gets its name from its calyx – that is, the balloon-shaped swellings that grow just behind the white flowers. Its white (and sometimes pink) wildflowers are in bloom from May to September and it has a pleasant clove-like aroma.
Like many wildflowers, bladder campion is named by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as ‘Perfect for Pollinators‘; its rich nectar attracts bumble bees, butterflies and other insects that help support the eco-system and promote bio diversity.
Growing and harvesting bladder campion
Bladder campion grows easily – just plant a handful of seeds at any time of year. It makes an attractive addition to a wildflower meadow or rock garden.
As an alternative to growing your own bladder campion, you can keep things really simple and invest in Meadowmat, a pre-grown wildflower meadow that’s as easy to lay as lawn turf. Meadowmat and organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and local Wildlife Trusts can provide further advice and tips on how to plant wildflowers, and their many benefits.
Traditional uses for bladder campion
Bladder campion attracts pollinators, other insects, and birds, so it makes the perfect addition to a wildflower garden. Bladder campion is not known for its medicinal qualities but it does have several culinary uses. It is very nutritious, high in omega 3 and packed with antioxidants. When the leaves are young they can be added to salads and eaten raw. Mature leaves tend to be more bitter and should be blanched or steamed, in the same way other leafy vegetables are cooked, and can be added to stir fries and soups.
Bladder campion has long been a popular choice with foragers, particularly in Spain, where it is a key ingredient in recipes such as ‘gazpacho viudo’ (widower gazpacho), a soup made in the La Mancha region of the country with the plant’s stewed leaves, and eaten with a local flatbread.